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Increase ‘affordable’ as Mayor goes for the big sell

FRASER Coast Mayor Gerard O'Connell is on the offensive with a big sell of the council's controversial rate-rising budget.

In the second financial media conference in as many days, Cr O'Connell prepared for an almost certain backlash as rates notices started to appear in the region's letterboxes.

The Mayor and his seven supporters battled hard to pass the 2014-15 budget 8-3, with robust debate in the Maryborough chamber in June.

Now Cr O'Connell is facing his second and most important budget battle - with the Fraser Coast ratepayers.

This is his third budget as Mayor and it may prove his toughest with some rural commercial businesses facing a 30% rate hike.

And rates for the most common category - Category 2 - will rise about 3% or an extra $35.

This doesn't include additional waste and water costs introduced in the budget.

Comparing the Fraser Coast to smaller council areas such as Brisbane and Cairns has been Cr O'Connell's justification for higher rates.

On Tuesday, Cr O'Connell continued to push his justification saying the Fraser Coast had less people to pay for more infrastructure and services.

"We made this budget and therefore the rate rise as affordable as we possibly could for our region," he said.

Along with the rate rise, waste charges and the State Government's fire levy have also increased.

The council's new $75 infrastructure levy is also expected to net about $3.7 million across the Fraser Coast.

Earlier this month the Chronicle documented Tiaro businessman Mel Harris's expected 30% rate rise.

Mr Harris isn't sure how he will be able to continue his business, but Cr O'Connell said it could have been worse than 30%.

"What we've done is rather than impose the exact cost (and) have massive rises, we've capped it," Cr O'Connell said.

"Any rise is very significant, we're not resiling from that but I think it's affordable."

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Topics:  fraser coast regional council, gerard o'connell, hervey bay, rates



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